5 Neurosculpting Practices for Lasting Brain Change

April 8, 2019

How many times do you beat yourself up for repeating the same limiting or self-sabotage patterns even though you “know better”? You might find yourself reaching for the next self-help book or seminar which often reiterates all the ways you “know better.” Back to square one!

Part of the problem is that knowing better often has little power to actually create real and lasting brain change. Science supports the idea that our unconscious and subconscious processes account for far more of our behavior drivers than conscious thought processes. So if our behaviors and patterns are dictated more from subconscious patterns than conscious ones, it really does little good to “know better.” Instead, for lasting brain change we have to “do better.”

Self-directed neuroplasticity, and practices like Neurosculpting, are some of the keys to influencing our thought patterns, breaking old ones, and establishing new ones. The great news is we can use some simple practices to begin winning over the brain and body, priming it to be more predisposed to self-directed change. Incorporating these five best practices can open the doors to a more graceful, resilient, and lasting experience of change.

1. Gratitude

Having a gratitude practice has been neurologically and biologically proven to have a profound effect on the body and mind. When the mind and body reach these states we feel less apprehensive about change and more open to new possibilities and uncertainty. UC Berkeley reports that practicing gratitude can lead to:

  • A strong immune system
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Joy
  • Forgiveness
  • Ease of chronic pain
  • Compassion
  • Social involvement

A simple gratitude practice can be five minutes in the shower making a list of the things in your day that support your comfort and safety. These might be appreciating the warm water, noticing you have shelter, or remembering you had a soft bed to sleep in. When you focus on the simple yet plausible things that support your comfort and safety, gratitude begins to cultivate naturally.

2. Brain Nutrition

Nourishing ourselves with foods high in Omega-3s and healthy fats is one of the best ways to support a healthy brain and a quality meditation practice in which to shift your patterns. Our body uses Omega-3s and healthy fats to build grey matter in our brain. In addition to brain nutrition, hydration is essential to healthy cognitive function, concentration, attention, memory and self-directed neuroplasticity.  

A simple practice to begin priming you for brain resilience and change is to put your food on a plate, eat it at a table, and make sure you have a healthy fat, protein, and source of quality slow carbohydrates like vegetables.

3. Daily Shaking Practice

When we experience a stress response, stress hormones (including adrenaline) move into the bloodstream and muscles contract and tighten. These physical changes occur in order for the body to engage in a fight-or-flight response for protection. When the body is in this state we are at our most resistant to change.

In most of the stressors that we typically face in our daily lives, however, we do not hit or run our way out of the situation, and the contracted physical state remains for extended amounts of time unnecessarily. This ultimately creates a potential for long-term physical maladies, including chronic pain and illness, and a mental rigidity that sabotages change.

One of the best ways to release tension, stress, or contraction—and prime the brain for lasting change—is to quite literally shake it off!

Consider what a rabbit, or any mammal, does after it has been chased by a predator and is now safe: it likely hides under a bush or object and shakes until the adrenaline has dispelled and the muscles can relax. You may have experienced your body attempting to use this technique naturally and perhaps have even tried to resist or control involuntary shaking.

We can utilize this natural biological strategy to release muscle tension and alleviate stress hormone buildup in the body. Consider finding a private space and informing people that you will be shaking so they know there is no medical emergency. Having a daily shaking practice releases unused and un-useful tension and contraction, allowing for alleviation and relaxation.

Feel free to shake violently and to even develop a daily shaking practice—as many others have!

4. Tapping with Non-Dominant Hand

This is one of our favorite Neurosculpting tricks! When you are in a meditation and find yourself in a moment that you would like to access easily later or anchor in now, you can tap a part of your body with your non-dominant hand. Creating a physical sensation in connection with a particular experience creates an association. This physical association makes the experience more easily accessible later.

Tapping can be used to retrieve the memory during another meditation, and even throughout the day. While it may not be as in-depth as a full meditation, tapping in the same place on your body with your non-dominant hand will bring the experience to mind. Imagine trying to establish a new pattern yet never having real-time moments to remind your subconscious mind of it. That new pattern will simply begin to fade away.

With this simple tip you can give gentle reinforcement to your new pattern while standing in line at the grocery store, driving in your commute, cooking, or showering. You can tap with your non-dominant hand in most moments and access the experience on a conscious or subconscious level.

5. Daily Novelty Exercises

Pique your brain’s interest with novel activities every time it crosses your mind. You can use imaginative yet non-threatening, simple exercises throughout the day to engage your brain. Ideas that are interesting, but not unnerving, can excite brain activity without a stressor and bring it into a heightened state of focus and receptivity to adaptation. This supports your brain’s capacity for pattern changes, problem-solving, goal-setting, and approaching your day with relaxed yet focused attention. Be creative and keep it simple.

Here is a list of novel and silly ideas to engage healthy activity in your brain throughout the day:

  • Brush your teeth or hair with your non-dominant hand
  • 
Get dressed out of order (opposite shoe first, shirt before pants)
  • Reverse or rearrange your morning routine
  • 
Imagine or envision a completely new shape or color
  • 
Imagine what the world would look like if you walked on your hands

These simple practices each day gently engage our ability to down-regulate our rigidity and up-regulate our predisposition to adaptation so that when we focus on making changes the brain is as receptive and focused as possible. Lasting brain change is not about what you know, it’s about what you do.


Lisa Wimberger is the founder of the Neurosculpting® Institute. She holds a master’s degree in education, a certificate in the Foundations of NeuroLeadership, and certificates in medical neuroscience, visual perception, the brain, and neurobiology. She is the author of New Beliefs, New Brain: Free Yourself from Stress and Fear, and Neurosculpting: A Whole-Brain Approach to Heal Trauma, Rewrite Limiting Beliefs, and Find Wholeness. As the founder of the Neurosculpting modality, Lisa runs a private meditation practice in Colorado, teaching clients who suffer from stress disorders. She is a faculty member of Kripalu Yoga and Meditation Center, the Law Enforcement Survival Institute, Omega Institute, and 1440 Multiversity.


Join Lisa Wimberger & 25 Leading Experts in the Fields of Neuroscience and Functional Medicine in the Brain Change Summit!

Lisa Wimberger

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Lisa Wimberger is the founder of the Neurosculpting Institute and author of New Beliefs, New Brain. A member of the National Center for Crisis Management and other care associations, she has a private practice in Denver, CO, specializing in helping clients with stress disorders. For more, visit neurosculptinginstitute.com.

Also By Author

5 Neurosculpting Practices for Lasting Brain Change

Incorporating these five best neuroplasticity practices can open the doors to a more graceful, resilient, and lasting experience of change.

Neurosculpting

Founder of the Neurosculpting® Institute Lisa Wimberger speaks with Tami Simon about how people can change their ingrained beliefs and conditioned behaviors using her revolutionary method. Neurosculpting takes a whole-brained approach to changing the way we deal with stress. Lisa relates how to “set up our brains for change” by calming our fight, flight, and freeze response, and guides us through a Neurosculpting session so we can see how we might respond in a new way to a stressful situation. (66 minutes)

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Tools for Cultivating Supportive Friendships & Re...

Tools for Cultivating Supportive Friendships & Relationships:

CHRISTOPHE ANDRÉ:

For this toolbox I’d like to put forward a little bit of theory about how we are supported by relationships — that is, to offer an overall look at what we receive from our relationships with others.

The five benefits of relationships. Studies show that social support can be broken down into several families of benefits:

  1. Material support: Others can help us in concrete ways. If I’ve broken my leg, I will be glad if somebody will do my shopping for me. If I have to move, I will be happy to have my friends help me transport the boxes.
  2. Informational support: Others can advise us, give us useful infor- mation, and play the role of human search engines — as intelligent as Google but alive and compassionate — and they won’t resell our personal information afterward.
  3. Emotional support: Others are the source of positive emotions; they give us affection, love, friendship, trust, admiration.
  4. The support of esteem. Others can remind us of our value and good qualities, tell us what they like about us, and sustain our self-esteem at moments of uncertainty.
  5. The inspiration of their example: This is more difficult to evaluate scientifically, but it’s quite real, as we have indicated.

The four varieties of relationships. Another important point is that it is helpful to cultivate varied social relationships, just as it is important to have a varied diet. There are four families of relationships, distributed in four concentric circles:

  1. Our intimates: the people we live with, whom we touch and embrace practically every day. This means mostly our family and best friends.
  2. Our close relations: our friends and colleagues, people with whom we regularly have close and regular exchanges.
  3. Our acquaintances: the whole network of people with whom we have a connection, even occasional, and who we keep track of and who keep track of us.
  4. Unknowns: those who we might also have relationships with, depending on our character. This includes people we might speak to on the street, on public transport, in stores. They can also be sources of help or information for us, as we can for them.

Specialists in social relations remind us that it is important to draw sup- port from these four circles — not only from our intimate and close relations—and to sustain our connections with these four relational spheres by giving and receiving help, information, support, eye contact, advice, and smiles. Because the idea is not only to receive but also to give, by speaking to unknowns and maintaining warm relations with our acquaintances, neighbors, and shopkeepers, we do ourselves good. And we embellish the world, improve it, and make it more human!

 

MATTHIEU RICARD:

The importance of social connection. We should choose to live in an environment where people are warm, altruistic, and compassionate. If this isn’t the case in all areas of our living space, we should progressively try to establish these values or, if it’s possible, we should leave the toxic environment.

In this connection, I like to cite the case of a community on the Japanese island of Okinawa, which claims to have one of the world’s highest concentrations of people aged a hundred or over. It appears that the main factor in this exceptional longevity is not the climate or the food, but the power of this community, where people maintain particularly rich social relationships. From cradle to grave, they relate very closely with one another. The elderly people in particular get together several times a week to sing, dance, and have a good time. Almost every day they go to schools to greet the children (whether they have familial links with them or not) at the end of the school day. The elders take the children in their arms and give them treats.

Draw inspiration from the righteous, from people who, in our eyes, embody the values of impartiality, tolerance, compassion, love, and kindness. In these times of the migratory crisis, I think of all those who have taken great risks, and I remember those who protected Jewish people during the Nazi persecutions of World War II, particularly those who hid Jews in their homes. These people have since come to be called “The Righteous.” The only common point that emerges from their many accounts is a view of others based on recognition of their common human- ity. All human beings deserved to be treated with kindness. Where we saw a stranger, they saw a human being.

Meditate on altruistic love. Studies in psychology have shown that meditating on altruistic love increases people’s feelings of belonging to a community; it enhances the quality of social connections and compassionate attitudes toward unknown people, while at the same reduc- ing discrimination toward particular groups, like people of color, homeless people, and immigrants.

Draw inspiration from friends in the good and spiritual masters. I recommend that everyone see a historical documentary made in India by Arnaud Desjardins at the end of the 1960s, in which we are shown the most respected of the Tibetan masters who took refuge on the Indian slopes of the Himalayas following the Chinese invasion of their country. The film is called The Message of the Tibetans.

 

ALEXANDRE JOLLIEN:

The audacity to live. Existing, opening oneself to the other, is running a risk. It means dropping one’s armor, one’s protective coverings, and opening one’s eyes and daring to give oneself to the other and to the entire world. There’s no way you can invest in a relationship, so throw out your logic of profit and loss! What if we were to embark on our day without any idea of gain or of using our fellow human beings? What if we stayed attentive to all the women and men it is given to us to encoun- ter on that day, looking to find among them masters in being human? 

Identify our profound aspirations. Helping others can often amount to imposing a view of the world on them without really paying any attention to what they really want in their hearts. A man bought an elephant without giving any thought in advance to how he was going to feed it. At a loss, he was obliged to turn for help to those around him, and what he got from them was, “You never should have bought such a big animal!” What does it mean to help others? Does it mean committing completely to being there for them? Does it mean going all the way with them?

Authentic compassion. A will to power might enter into our move- ment toward the other—a thirst for recognition, a twisted attempt to redeem ourselves. Daring a true encounter means quitting the sphere of your neurosis and walking the path of freedom together. There’s no more “me,” no more “you,” but a coalescent “us,” a primordial solidarity.

Coming out of the bunker. As a result of having been burned in our relationship with another, the temptation is great to put on armor, to completely shut ourselves up in a bunker-like fortress, even to the point of suffocation. Don’t our passions, our griefs, our loves, and the fierce- ness of our desire remind us that we are essentially turned toward the other, in perpetual communication? Is there a way to live the thousand and one contacts of daily life without our ego appropriating them?

This is excerpted from the newest book from Matthieu Ricard, Christophe André, and Alexandre Jollien, Freedom For All Of Us: A Monk, A Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on Finding Inner Freedom.

Copy of MatthieuRicard-AlexandreJollien-ChristopheAndré©PhilippeDanais2017

 

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, a photographer, and a molecular geneticist who has served as an interpreter for the Dalai Lama. 

Christophe André is a psychiatrist and one of the primary French specialists in the psychology of emotions and feelings.

 Alexandre Jollien is a philosopher and a writer whose work has been attracting an ever-growing readership. Together, they are the authors of In Search of Wisdom and Freedom For All of Us.

picture of the book titles Freedom for All of Us

Learn More

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Meet a Coauthor of . . . Freedom for All of Us

The Author

Christophe André is a psychiatrist specializing in the psychology of emotions. His books include Imperfect, Free, and Happy, and Meditating, Day after Day. He lives in France. For more, visit christopheandre.com.

Freedom For All Of Us

The Book

With their acclaimed book In Search of Wisdom, three gifted friends—a monk, a philosopher, and a psychiatrist—shed light on our universal quest for meaning, purpose, and understanding. Now, in this new in-depth offering, they invite us to tend to the garden of our true nature: freedom.

Filled with unexpected insights and specific strategies, Freedom for All of Us presents an inspiring guide for breaking free of the unconscious walls that confine us.

 

Translated from the original responses in French.

Send us a photo of your sacred space or workspace.

Here is the view from my home office in Saint-Malo, Brittany, France. My writing space is situated on the top-most floor of the house, just underneath our roof, and each time I lift my head to look out the window, I see the beach, the ocean, and, further away, the ramparts of the old city. The ever-changing nature [of this place], the sky and the tides forever moving (and morphing), the memory of all the corsairs (pirates) of Saint-Malo’s past … all of these things are what inspire me and bring joy to my life.

What is something about you that doesn’t make it into your author bio? It could be something that impacts your work, or something totally random and entertaining!

[There’s] nothing necessarily odd or extraordinary, but perhaps a rather banal fact [is my] being a parent. For me, becoming a father is the event that has most changed me in my life (and has most encouraged me to better myself). It has truly enriched my life the most.

There are two key moments (or memories) that for me [define] being a parent. Firstly, those moments where we realize our children are watching and judging us; and this moment can be very moving and also uncomfortable as a parent, because you feel like your children have discovered all your limits or your faults. (How can we hide it? Impossible, they will see them! At least once, or from time to time.) The essential lesson is that we don’t try to constantly hide our true selves, and this encourages us to transform ourselves. The watchful eye and judgments of our children can feel like a challenge for parents, but a fruitful challenge [nonetheless].

The other key moment is when we realize that our children are more skilled in ways we are not (and sometimes in all ways)! It’s that moment when we discover that we, as parents, are learning from our children; their intelligence, generosity, and enthusiasm. It’s the moment that we allow ourselves, discreetly and with great humility, to let them be our teachers.

If you could invite any three transformational leaders or spiritual teachers (throughout time) to dinner, who would they be and why?

I imagine I would probably be too intimidated to actually have dinner or a conversation with the following three people! I would probably prefer to follow them, like a shadow or a small mouse, and to watch them live and work over several days. To observe their intimate, everyday routines, and listen to their discourse (which in a way is possible with all of their published works). It has always seemed to me that wisdom arises, above all, through example and embodiment.

I would love to follow the everyday life of Etty Hillesum, [the writer], who was a stranger to hatred. Even when she would have every reason to hate the Nazis, who had her executed [at Auschwitz], she still spoke of grace even in a world where only fear, violence, and injustice seemed to live.

I would love to follow alongside Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during a day in his life. I admire him for his choice to fight for civil rights without the use of violence. I remember, vividly, crying when I visited his memorial in Atlanta.

And finally, I would love to shadow Henry David Thoreau when he was living in his cabin at Walden. I admire his decision to live a life filled with only the essentials: nature, spirituality, and few material possessions, which is in stark contrast to the mistakes and values that we hold in this modern day.

Freedom For All Of Us

Learn More

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | IndieBound

Meet a Coauthor of . . . Freedom for All of Us

The Author

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, humanitarian, and one of three authors of Freedom for All of Us: A Monk, a Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on Finding Inner Peace, available in November, 2020. He is also the author of several other books, including The Monk and the Philosopher, Happiness, and Altruism. He is a major participant in research collaboration between cognitive scientists and Buddhist practitioners. Ricard is a noted translator and photographer, and has founded humanitarian projects in India, Tibet, and Nepal. For more information, visit karuna-shechen.org.

Freedom for All of Us Cover

The Book

With their acclaimed book In Search of Wisdom, three gifted friends—a monk, a philosopher, and a psychiatrist—shed light on our universal quest for meaning, purpose, and understanding. Now, in this new in-depth offering, they invite us to tend to the garden of our true nature: freedom.

Filled with unexpected insights and specific strategies, Freedom for All of Us presents an inspiring guide for breaking free of the unconscious walls that confine us.

 

Send us a photo of your sacred space.

[Pictured here is the] Shechen Monastery in Nepal, where I live a good part of the year:

 

Monastery

 

[And] the views from my hermitage in Nepal:

 

vieew 1

 

 

view 2

 

If you could invite any three transformational leaders or spiritual teachers (throughout time) to dinner, who would they be and why?

I do not have dinner and he does not either, but if I had to choose to spend an hour quietly with someone alive today, it would be His Holiness the Dalai Lama. [He is] someone of boundless compassion and wisdom, who treats every sentient being—from the person who cleans the floor at the hotel when he travels, to a head of state—with the same kindness, respect, and attention.

As for [two people] who [are no longer] in this world, I would give everything to spend another hour in the presence of my two main spiritual teachers: Kangyur Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who inspire every instant of my life.

Has your book taken on a new meaning in the world’s current circumstances? Is there anything you would have included in your book if you were writing it now?

Many people have indeed faced great hardship; being sick, left alone, and having lost a dear one. But for those who simply had to be with themselves and a few kin, I was quite surprised to see how difficult they found [it] to just be with their own minds for extended periods of time. It seemed that it was such a new situation and they had few tools to deal with it.

As a contemplative, I value tremendously [the] time spent alone in my hermitage in the Himalaya[s], cultivating fundamental human qualities that allow me to slowly become a better human being. I believe that among those qualities, inner freedom and compassion are two key factors and that, therefore, our dialogue [in Freedom for All of Us] is quite timely. Most of the subjects that we reflect upon seem very relevant [during] these troubled times and I hope that they will be useful!

Freedom for All of Us Cover

Learn More

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | IndieBound

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